Fear is one of the basic emotions of most of the animals that inhabit the planet, including humans. Thanks to him, we have warned that certain stimuli are potentially fatal, and we have prepared a response according to the threat.
It is therefore not a dangerous effect, nor “negative” as is traditionally thought. It is rather a useful and effective phenomenon to ensure the survival of a species, As this protects us in a sometimes extremely hostile world.
However, sometimes such an emotion can spread where it shouldn’t be, or acquire an intensity disproportionate to the objective characteristics of the stimulus in the face of what is being triggered. In this case, we are referring to phobias, disorders that fall under the general category of anxiety.
In this article, we will talk about a fear that is more common than what people usually think and which can limit the quality of life of those who suffer from it. It’s ranidaphobia. Let’s see what it is, why it happens and how it is treated.
What is ranidaphobia?
Ranidaphobia is the special label that describes the excruciating and crippling fear of frogs. The term comes from two classical languages, the etymology is rooted in Latin (“ranae” or frog) and in Greek (“phobia” or fear). It is a phobia unique to the animal subtype, a form of aversion much more common in childhood than in adulthood, although it can affect anyone throughout their life cycle ( regardless of gender).
The frog is attributed a whole series of qualities that many people find unpleasant. Among them are extremely mobile eyes, which are the most visible anatomical region when submerged underwater, and also have eyelids and nictitating membranes that cover their eyeballs and make them appear “ shiny and “ attentive ”. Its skin is slightly slimy and its legs are extremely strong considering its weight and size.
People with ranidaphobia find these traits extremely aversive and extend this appreciation to the animal’s “non-physical” characteristics, such as its unmistakable hoarseness, which also requires the action of thin membranes under the skin of their necks (the movement tends to be “awful” to those who fear them). Over time, if the proper treatments are not applied, the fear worsens and even extends to just watching a frog on television or other means (the Internet, for example).
Upon exposure to a stimulus associated with a frog, the person with ranidaphobia experiences bodily sensations similar to those of a panic attack: Hyperventilation, rapid heartbeat, mydriasis of the pupil (which can reduce visual acuity and obstruct vision in too bright spaces), sweating and a feeling that the body is about to collapse. In more severe cases, symptoms of depersonalization and desrealization may appear.
In addition to this, there are also cognitive-type symptoms that present before or during exposure to one’s own stimulus (anxious anticipation of meeting a frog to be in a space where it usually is) or during it (thoughts that cannot be “endured”, Or mental images in which this animal moves, hides, jumps or comes in contact with the person). In addition to this, engine ducts are also featured which help to maintain the problem over time (leakage or leakage).
This fear, considered overwhelming, usually extends to places where frogs live., Which are numerous and very varied (because widely distributed throughout the geography). For this reason, spaces where there is an excess of vegetation or humidity are generally avoided, as well as places too close to rivers or swamps. In addition, the fear is exacerbated at or near night hours, as these are periods of low visibility and in which the noise of these amphibians is more evident.
What are the causes of this disorder?
The causes for which ranidaphobia can occur are very diverse; and are linked to psychic, social and biological variables. The latter refer directly to genetics, as it has been shown that vulnerability to the development of anxiety problems is associated with family inheritance, So about 50% of this phenomenon is attributable to it (although it is not always easy to separate it from the specific parenting patterns that stimulate the onset of this disorder).
Personal experience of a real and unfavorable situation in which a frog was involved is also very common, as well as witnessing the reaction of a person with excruciating fear when interacting with this animal. In the same way, using frogs or other animals as deterrent strategies to prevent unwanted child behavior (“A dog will come and eat you”, for example), also very frequently refers to the reconstruction of the history of the creation of the problem.
The truth is that frogs have traditionally been seen as unattractive, or even unpleasant and unworthy of being loved, and this has been successfully transferred to folk tales and tales that have been passed down for generations to children across almost all of the world. planet (“kissing frogs until some of them become a prince”). In fact, there are parts of the world where an animal carrying bad fortune is seen (when related to witchcraft ), and there are even phrases in the proverb that refer to it in a certain way: Contemptuous (“I have a frog”).
Some children also learn to fear – realizing that many frogs are poisonous, especially those that glow in colors that at first glance could be striking. On another side, in many countries frogs are used as a “medium” by which children learn the basics of anatomy; which for many is a traumatic, disgusting or cruel experience (evisceration, dismemberment, dissection, etc.) from which the irresistible fear that follows is erected.
Finally, it is also possible that the fear of frogs arises in a secondary way, that is, as part of a “larger” stimulus of which the child is afraid. So, for example, the croaking of frogs in the middle of a dark and / or cold place (in which fear arises naturally and adaptively) can switch that sound from a neutral stimulus to another conditioning, and so the excitement is generalized. to the rest of what the frog is (including its physical presence in places very different from those in which this association was originally acquired).
It should also be noted that sometimes frogs appear unexpectedly or suddenly, jumping from behind a bush or simply perching on a stone or plant without anything being able to notice it. This way of acting can explode the emotion of surprise in children, an affection considered neutral (neither positive nor negative) for most people, but with unfavorable nuances for those living with an anxiety disorder.
Psychological treatment is a very effective tool to fight against phobias, And this in particular is no exception. The program incorporates a set of cognitive and behavioral strategies that have a high degree of evidence and are selected based on the particulars of the case and the history of the problem. The use of anti-anxiety medications (like benzodiazepines) is not considered a priority, and there are even studies that indicate that it might interfere with some of the psychotherapeutic procedures.
As stated above, avoiding the feared stimulus (the frog on this occasion) becomes counterproductive, As it exacerbates the problem by a negative reinforcement mechanism. It is therefore important to plan exposure sessions to lessen the fear reaction to the habit of the patient. stimulus. In addition, over time, they will improve self-efficacy and change negative expectations about what happens when interacting with the animal (which at first is usually very dark).
As it is not always possible to develop a live exposure from the start of therapy, it can only start with the imagination using a progressive format. This modality is a good anteroom and allows the therapist and the patient to construct a hierarchy of situations (according to the levels of anxiety they generate), which they will have to face by “induction” by the professional. The technique is combined with diaphragmatic breathing or other modes of relaxation, and increases confidence in the ability to deal with fear. In addition, it can be enriched with audiovisual details (audio tracks in which the croaking of a frog can be heard, for example).
Certain cognitive techniques have also been shown to be effective in this problem., Especially those that aim to reflect on how mental content (thoughts) can condition our emotions, articulating a proactive debate through which it will be explored whether or not our beliefs about frogs match objective and rational parameters or not. On this occasion, the therapist and the patient dialogue and / or explore together, through a variety of logical resources based on collaborative empiricism.
Finally, psychoeducation is essential throughout the process. This will need to focus both on what anxiety is and why it occurs, and on the characteristics of frogs. To do this, you can resort to reading books about them, including those that deepen their habits and anatomy. In this way, it aims to better understand the object of fears and reduce the usual uncertainty that burns with phobic stimuli.
- Coelho, C. and Purkis, H. (2009). The origins of specific phobias: influential theories and current perspectives. General review of psychology, 13, 335-351.
- Singh, J. and Singh, J. (2016). Treatment options for specific phobias. International Journal of Basic and Clinical Pharmacology, 5 (3), 593-598.